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Who’s Responsible for Elevator and Escalator Accidents and Injuries?

Elevators and escalators are such a common part of our daily lives that we take their safety for granted all the time. Millions of people rely on elevators and escalators for better accessibility and mobility. But mechanical malfunctions and maintenance issues can have catastrophic consequences for people who get caught in elevator or escalator accidents.

Whether you’re at work or shopping or just out and about in the world, property owners and operators have a legal duty – to make sure all elevators and escalators are built up to standards and maintained regularly. If someone fails to take care of their part, that can cause the elevator or escalator to break down, putting the passengers at risk of injury.

According to the CDC, an average of 30 people die and 17,000 people get injured in elevator and escalator accidents in the U.S. every year. Elevators are by far the most dangerous, responsible for 90% of those incidents, which affect both members of the public as well as workers who install, repair, maintain, or work near elevators.

In California, inspectors and maintenance crews can barely keep up with the thousands of elevators and escalators in the state, many of them decades old. Your landlord may fail to fix an elevator that keeps “acting up.” Maybe you’ve even gotten used to the “quirks” of an elevator you take every day – bumpy rides, doors that close too fast, or buttons that don’t work.

Accidents are bound to happen under these types of conditions. Even when elevators are out of order or under repair, elevator companies, property owners, and other contractors must take care to minimize the risk of preventable injuries – either on the elevator or in or around the elevator shaft. There should be plenty of visible signage and the area should be blocked off from public access. Failing to address these dangers could be negligence.

If someone else’s negligence causes you to get injured, you can hold them responsible for the consequences with a personal injury lawsuit. For catastrophic injuries caused by elevator or escalator accidents, you could recover damages for the full extent of the effect of the injury on your life – including medical treatment costs and lost wages now and in the future.

Common Injuries in Elevator and Escalator Accidents

Unfortunately, elevator and escalator accidents often lead to catastrophic injuries because of the nature of these incidents. Common elevator and escalator injuries involve:

  • Falls into open or empty elevator shafts
  • Trips and falls from misaligned elevator or escalator edges
  • Getting caught in between escalator steps or elevator floors
  • Electrical or wiring issues causing the controls to malfunction
  • Malfunctioning elevator doors that close too fast or fail to close fully
  • Emergency failsafe features failing to kick in when needed
  • A mechanical failure or defect that breaks down the escalator or elevator
  • Sudden elevator free falls or plunges down multiple floors
  • Escalator panels failing, falling off, or breaking down
  • Asphyxiation or exposure to water or fire while trapped in an elevator
  • Claustrophobia and emotional distress from being stuck in an elevator

Victims could suffer broken bones and catastrophic physical trauma from escalator and elevator injuries – including cuts and bruises, crushed limbs, broken bones, extensive organ damage, internal bleeding, spinal injuries, amputations, and traumatic brain injuries. If your loved one passed away from an elevator accident, you could have a case for wrongful death.

Maintenance crews, construction workers, and operators are at the highest risk of suffering escalator and elevator injuries. But innocent tenants and unsuspecting members of the public can also get caught up in accidents whenever negligence is involved.

Catastrophic injuries often lead to catastrophic effects on one’s life. You may need medical treatment or supportive care for months, years, or the rest of your life. Your injury may make you unable to do your job just as medical bills begin to pile up. But the law can put responsibility where it belongs and hold whoever caused your injury accountable for their actions.

Who’s Liable for an Elevator Accident?

With so many moving parts and so many lives at stake, there’s no excuse for failing to properly maintain escalators or elevators in California. 

Modern elevator and escalator standards require multiple fail-safes – for example, emergency brakes, redundant cables, and alarm buttons. If one steel cable fails, a backup cable should be there to take the load. If an elevator starts to free fall, the emergency brakes should stop the fall immediately and hold the elevator in place until the passengers can be rescued.

But these safety features only work properly if they’re maintained properly – if the people responsible that the necessary steps to keep everything in safe working order.

If the people responsible fail to perform their legal duty of safety, then you could hold them liable or legally responsible for the harm that you’ve suffered with a personal injury lawsuit.

A lawsuit can get you damages to compensate you for your losses, including:

  • Medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses related to your injury
  • Any income you lose because you cannot work after your injury
  • Pain, suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life

The more severe your injuries, the more comprehensive your recovery should be. Catastrophic injuries like TBI, amputation, or paralysis can profoundly affect the rest of your life. Your lawyer should make sure you’re compensated for the full effects of your injury on your life. That includes financial compensation for expenses and lost income even decades down the line. After a life-changing injury, you deserve to be supported as much as possible.

Some cases go above and beyond the usual, where someone behaves so badly that a judge or jury may award you punitive damages mean to punish them for their actions. You may get punitive damages if your landlord or property manager knew about a dangerous condition on the premises for months but actively tried to cover up the problem instead of fixing it.

If you’ve suffered an elevator or escalator injury in California, you have rights and we can help. Click here now to talk to the experienced personal injury lawyers at Sepulveda Sanchez Law.